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A model of the Mars drone helicopter, which is planned to fly on Mars in less than three years, was recently displayed by AeroVironment, Inc. The company revealed its critical role in collaborating with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA/JPL) in Pasadena, California to build the drone helicopter recently selected by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.

Flying at nearly 100,000 feet on Earth is much like flying on the surface of Mars – same air density – so AeroVironment used simulation tools the technology company learned from record high-altitude flights and incorporated them into the Mars helicopter design.

AeroVironment is currently building the flight versions of their subsystems which will be integrated with other subsystems into the vehicle that JPL is building. The plan is for JPL to then install the finished Mars Helicopter into the Mars 2020 rover for its ride to a Martian landing site, still to be determined.